Nova Scotia is trying to become a winter tourism destination: White Point is a Poster-child!

Nova Scotia is trying to become a winter tourism destination: White Point is a Poster-child!

From winter surfing to a lobster crawl, tourism operators hope visitors will see province’s frosty charms

By Natalie Dobbin, CBC News  Posted: Dec 25, 2017 9:00 AM AT| Last Updated: Dec 25, 2017 9:00 AM AT
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Donna Hatt celebrates the official start of winter. (Robert Short/CBC)

It’s a great day at White Point.
That’s the tagline for the beach resort on Nova Scotia’s South Shore.

And they really do mean every day — whether it’s flip-flops on the sand or boots.

With a push to promote winter tourism in Nova Scotia, White Point could be the poster child. “If you think the beach looks good in summer, you should see it in winter,” said Donna Hatt, marketing and product development manager at White Point.

And Hatt is walking the talk.

She led a group of winter walkers out on the rocks, through the smell of salt air and dormant wild rose bushes, to the very tip of White Point to celebrate the beginning of winter at exactly 12:28 p.m. on Dec. 21.

A countdown came before she pulled the cork on a bottle of sparkling Nova Scotia wine.

“3, 2, 1, happy winter!” yelled the crowd of about a dozen people. “May your winter be frosty and frolicky,” Hatt said.

White Point Beach Resort is part of a new seasonality working group spearheaded by the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia.

Darlene Grant Fiander, president of the association, said there’s a growing recognition that the tourism industry should start its season earlier in the spring and extend later into the fall and winter.

That’s already happening to some extent, she said, pointing to examples such as Yarmouth businesses opening during a youth hockey tournament and winter events like the Icewine Festival in the Annapolis Valley.

“There’s a lot of good examples of work happening, but so much more could be done,” said Grant Fiander.

$4 billion by 2024:
Grant Fiander said off-season growth is important to boost tourism revenues to $4 billion by 2024, a goal set out in the Ivany Report in 2013.

As of September 2017, tourism revenues were $2.1 billion for this year, compared with $2 billion in 2016, according to Tourism Nova Scotia.

There were 1,109,000 visitors from July to September of 2017, with 82 per cent coming from Canada. Of that number, 34 per cent were from Atlantic Canada.

But from January to March of 2017, 70 per cent of visitors came from Atlantic Canada. And visitation was much lower, at 316,000 people.

Grant Fiander said the winter working group, which will continue its work for two or three years, is hoping to increase the number of both Atlantic Canadian visitors and those from further away.

Tourism Nova Scotia thinks growth in the off-season is key.

“As we reach capacity in the busy summer months in Nova Scotia, it is critical that we work as an industry to create product that will compel visitation in the shoulder and winter seasons,” said Tourism Nova Scotia CEO Michele Saran in an email.

Challenges to seasonality

There are some challenges to seasonality, Grant Fiander said.

There would need to be rethinking about existing reduced commercial tax rates for seasonal businesses, she said. And in rural parts of Nova Scotia, it might be harder to find workers.

Hatt sees another shift that needs to happen. She thinks Nova Scotia needs to better showcase its winter assets.

Guests Rhonda and Tom Madgett have been going to White Point in November or December for the past 13 years.

“What would happen if we started focusing on winter?”

That’s exactly what White Point is doing.

Think Lobster crawl, winter surfing.

The resort is offering experiences such as winter surfing lessons and going out on a working lobster fishing boat.

East Coast Surf School is offering camps there this winter, the Devour! the Biosphere Food Film Festival will be holding an event there and the resort is part of the South Shore Lobster Crawl.

“Think Halifax Burger week, but instead have a lobster roll.”

But at White Point, on the first of December, all Rhonda Madgett needs is the beauty.

Madgett and her husband live in Dartmouth and have been coming to White Point in November or December for the past 13 years.

They look forward to the serenity and the beauty “that you don’t see in the summertime.”

“We live outside when we’re here,” she said. “Doesn’t matter what the weather is.”